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This Is Northern New South Wales

The Nightjars – Part 2

‘In a very quiet street in Byron Bay the two Tawny Frogmouth who I’ve been photographing for years built a nest and had one extraordinary little chick who is just so full of personality and attitude he/she makes me laugh everyday. For the purpose of this story I will refer to the chick as a “he” but it’s impossible to tell the sex at such a young age.

The nest, a flimsy affair, was built in the fork of a horizontal branch of a Paperbark tree. A friend contacted me to let me know it was there as it was well hidden from the road. From that day I went there three times a day and photographed the process of nesting, birth to fledging. Dad didn’t move from the nest every single day and mum, who was always nearby, took over at night. Dad successfully hid the chick until he was about two weeks old by sitting on him, although now when I look at photos I can see telltale baby feathers underneath him. At about two weeks the chick popped his head up, yawned and looked straight at me, beginning my love of the chick I call Neptune.

Neptune didn’t like sleeping in the day and would always peer over the nest with those huge eyes as though he was saying ‘Dad’s always asleep and I’m bored so can you amuse me’. Even now he’s fledged and is in another tree, higher up, as soon as I call him he leans over and fixes me with those big eyes. After he was born his mum moved much closer during the day and would always be on a branch directly opposite where she could keep an eye on things. Dad would often spread one wing and try to scoop Neptune underneath for a snooze or try to sit on him again, but these paternal moves were always met with resistance by a chick that was keen for life.

After about 25 days I went there and Neptune had taken his first steps and was sitting on the branch near the nest with Dad next to him. I swear he went through a ‘showing off’ phase where when I’d call him, he would fluff up his feathers, crouch down and lift up his little wings, do the ‘Indian head waggle’ or crouch forward and do his ‘scary’ face. Once he was out of the nest Mum was always next to him so it would be Mum, Neptune and Dad sitting together on a branch with Neptune still struggling to do the Frogmouth ‘I am a stick’ pose because he always wants to look.

Soon I will go and he will be gone to find his own territory. But now, I still go and visit twice a day, although some days I have to search to find the three of them perched somewhere together. I feel such a strong connection with that little Nightjar and he has been a blessing through a challenging last month, always lifting my spirits and reminding me of how beautiful our Byron Bay world still is.’

Photos & Words: Thanks to Deb Pearce (This is a follow up from a previous article – The Nightjars)